tv Way Too Early With Willie Geist MSNBC December 15, 2011 5:30am-6:00am EST
chief correspondent richard engle at the airport in baghdad. richard, you've been covering this war up close from the very beginning. tell us what you're seeing there this morning? >> well, this sore meneny is still under way so i'm going to have to speak fairly quietly. this is a significant ceremony. what this means is the u.s. military command in iraq is closing down. it means that the only mission left in this country is to pull out the some 4,000 american troops that remain in iraq, but the military command, the iraq war as we have known it for the last nine years, is ending right now. there are a speech going on by the defense secretary. they've been talking about the accomplishments that have been made. they've been talking about how saddam hussein, a dictator, a tyrant, has been toppled and that iraq now has the opportunity to build a new future. it's very different, however, from what we're hearing when we speak to iraqis off military bases like this one. what we're hearing from iraqis
is that they are very worried about their future. yes, saddam was a tyrant, he was removed, but they worry that sectarian tensions could come back to the forefront, that the civil war that iraq lived through and struggled through in 2006 and 2007, might return again, although they're not exactly sure in what form. iraqis are very nervous as the u.s. military command, as you said, just recently cased the colors, closed the command, and is now ending the war as we know it with the only mission now left to have the final pullout. >> yes. secretary panetta, trying to paint a picture, saying in his remarks there, your dream of an independent and sovereign iraq is now a reality. he went on to say the mission of an iraq that could govern and secure itself has become real. from where you're sitting, from the war you've been covering, from the country you've spent a good part of the last decade in, how accurate are those remarks? >> iraq right now is a sovereign country. the u.s. military took down the
colors of the military command. that means the military command here has no longer any authority in iraq. the only mission left is to escort those 4,000 or so troops out of this country. so from this point forward, iraq is a fully sovereign country without any foreign military command operating with a degree of autonomy in this country. that statement is certainly true. it is sovereign. whether it will be able to function normally and remain a stable country, is the big question. there are infrastructure problems here. yesterday i was in sadr city and other baghdad neighborhoods and there were open sewers, many parts of baghdad still to this day only receive a few hours of electricity a day, so there are major challenges which the defense secretary did acknowledge. and now we're going to hear from general martin dempsey who is giving his remarks starting right now. >> we know, richard, there is
something like 700,000 security forces, iraqi security forces, that the united states and citizens in iraq hope are prepared to provide security for the people. what do we know about the state of which a pretty large fighting force, a security force there, how well prepared are they for what's about to happen now as these colors are cased and sent back to the united states? >> the iraqi security forces are actually in pretty good shape. the iraqi army is quite well trained. i've seen iraqi soldiers. they look almost like u.s. soldiers these days with their equipment, with their weapons. they still need more air power. the iraqi police force, less well trained and well equipped, but also far better than it was before and far better than it was under saddam. the problem however, is the political system in this country. there are many political parties, some of them are quite extreme. to give you an example, muqtada el sadr, his group alone, has
the largest single block in parliament, a radical anti-american cleric, with a militia group. the political system here is the one that's probably going to create the biggest challenge, a political system that feels in many respects an affinity to ir iran. the security services, yes, they have been trained in the u.s. military as a military was very good at teaching iraqis how to fight, how to clear apartments, but far less good at -- far less effective at teaching them how to run a country. >> richard, if you don't mind sharing, i remember certainly where i was on march 20th, 2003, as i watched on cnn and msnbc the bombs falling over baghdad. had no idea we would be in this for something like nine years. what does this day feel like to you, for someone who's been there covering it for so long? >> i was here in baghdad during that period and then r a long period after that, so watching the arrival of u.s. troops, watching those first bombs come
in in 2003, the start of what was called shock and awe at the time, it seemed like baghdad was being destroyed, that it would be a quick war. u.s. forces were coming in. it only took about 21 days for them to destroy the army of saddam hussein and arrive in baghdad and topple the government. but it kept going and it kept going and there were deployment after deployment and i remember a lot of people were just setting continuous deadlines. it will be over next year. it will be over next year. but now it's almost nine years and this conflict is over for the united states, but it is certainly not over for iraq. they may have another round of fighting to go. personally, i never thought it would take this long. i never thought it would be nearly a nine-year commitment to iraq, with about a million u.s. troops cycling through here, 4,500 roughly killed. it has been -- general dempsey
just said, we paid a great price here. >> yes, we did. 4500 american lives, about a trillion dollars. before i let you go, quickly, as a practical matter, what happens next? we're watching dramatically here as the colors are rolled up and they will be cased. what happens next? how soon do the remaining troops, only a few thousand of them left now, how soon will they be out of the country and the american presence officially gone? >> well, that's a complicated question. technically the colors have already been cased. the command flag was lowered. general austin and his sergeant major rolled up the command flag and then put a case over it. now it will go back home in a ceremonial fashion. but with that casing ceremony, it means the u.s. military command here has -- is closed, is over, is finished. the u.s. troops that are still remaining, about 4,000 of them, will be leaving over the coming days and are supposed to all be out of this country by the end of the month.
the exact logistical movements are still a guarded military secret because they don't want attacks on those final convoys which would have a great symbolic significance, let alone the potential loss of life or injuries. this is the end of the u.s. military presence officially in this country, but there will remain thousands of contractors and thousands of diplomats and that is something that many iraqis are concerned about. some of these diplomats and contractors will also have military-style weapons, including mraps. this is the next controversy here. the 15,000 to 18,000 contractors staying behind and diplomats and government officials in iraq, operating on bases and looking in some ways like a military presence. >> all right. nbc's richard engle, thanks so much. we'll let you get back to watch the rest of the ceremony. appreciate your perspective this morning at baghdad international airport. back at home, president obama marked the end of the conflict with a trip yesterday to the ft. bragg army base in
north carolina. where u.s. troops have been involved in iraq since the very first day of the war. they're also among the final soldiers to leave the battlefield. the president hailed what he called a, quote, extraordinary achievement. >> for nearly nine years, our nation has been at war in iraq. as your commander in chief, and on behalf of a grateful nation, i'm proud to finally say these two words and i know your families agree, welcome home. [ applause ] welcome home. [ applause ] welcome home. everything that american troops have done in iraq, all the fighting, all the dying, the bleeding and the building and the training and the partnering, all of it has led to this moment of success. now iraq is not a perfect place,
it has many challenges ahead, but we're leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. >> politics always at play, though. on capitol hill senator john mccain blasting the obama administration yesterday for the withdraw, suggesting it was based on the president's re-election calendar, rather than conditions on the ground. >> it is clear that this decision of a complete pullout of the united states troops from iraq was dictated by politics and not our national security interests. i believe that history will judge this president's leadership with the scorn and disdain that it deserves. >> even with the troop pullout the american presence in the region not going away. at least 4,000 remain in
neighboring kuwait and thousands of diplomatic officials are stationed at the massive u.s. embassy in baghdad. let's bring in retirmds army colonel jack jacobs and recipient of the medal of honor. great to have you with us this morning. you were one of the last guys out of vietnam. i wonder what it feels like for an american serviceman on a day like this? >> absolutely magnificent. when you're the last guy out, you're getting ready to leave, you have no interest whatsoever in the fineries of international politics or even domestic politics. you want to get home. and i remember coming back from vietnam my second tour in january 1973 after having been there five years before fighting more or less the same war, being extremely happy that i was coming home and not very much concerned with what the outcome might turn out to be. >> if you take the politics, jack, out of this extraordinary divisive war that's separated the country over the last decade
or so, what will be the legacy from a military point of view of our intervention in iraq? >> well, there's plenty of argument about this. i think you could argue strenuously that part of it, ironically, is the loss of influence in that part of the world. particularly in the eastern mediterranean where you see turkey flexing its muscles and so on. when you apply military power without too much idea of where it's going to lead, without a complete plan, you're going to wind up unhappy. i think we in retrospect are quite unhappy about the effort that we made, the national effort that we made, in iraq. we have -- we're lucky to have brave soldiers, sailors, air men and marines who have done what they really needed to do to accomplish the very difficult missions they were given, but from a national strategic standpoint, leaving afghanistan where we had some great success, actually, divert our attention to iraq, turns out to be a very
bad idea, indeed. i think history is going to demonstrate that. >> despite the ceremony we're watching today, right now at baghdad international airport, jack, we know the war is not over for a lot of people who are coming home, the service men and women who return home, more than 32,000 wounded. they'll need our attention and care for a very long time. what do we do differently this time, perhaps, that we didn't do with vietnam to make sure as a country we keep a good eye on these people who have given us so much for the rest of us. >> we never focused on it when we came back from vietnam. the the united states was so happy about being out of vietnam and so ecstatic about not having to have a draft anymore, that we completely and totally ignored the people who had fought, most of them against their will, and gave them lots and lots of trouble. i have quite a few friends who were treated shabbily by their neighbors for having fought, despite the fact that they were
drafted and dragged unceremoniously in the military, where they served valiantly, by the way. we don't do that anymore and we don't do that because we don't have a draft army. we love the troops. you know why we love the troops? because we don't have to be the troops. >> that's right. that's right. less than 1% of the country fighting these wars. it's critical now that we don't forget them as they come home. we're looking at live pictures from baghdad international airport. the end of mission ceremony on today, december 15th. thanks for sticking around with us. appreciate it. still ahead here on "way too early" live from los angeles, some of the other stories making news, including mitt romney calling newt gingrich, quote, zany. a word that has not been used nonironically since 1958. and romney, the super rich guy, attacking gingrich for being a very rich guy. the bizarre race for the white house and a check on weather, when "way too early" comes right back.
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to "way too early." we're watching live pictures at 1:47 in the afternoon baghdad time. that's baghdad international airport. u.s. commanding general lloyd austin at the podium now at a ceremony to end the mission in iraq. it marks the official end of the u.s.-led war there, following nearly nine years of conflict that cost 4,487 american lives and more than $800 billion. defense secretary leon panetta
giving remarks, telling iraqi people your dream of an independent and sovereign iraq is now a reality. the mission of an iraq that could govern and secure itself has become real. those are the words of defense secretary leon panetta, who also thanked the sacrifice of u.s. troops and their families back in the united states. we'll keep our eye on that ceremony and have more at the top of the hour on "morning joe." republican presidential contenders heading to iowa today, gearing up for their final debate before the january 3rd caucuses. if the past few days are any indication, mitt romney will come out swinging against the field's latest frontrunner. >> newt gingrich has been an unreliable leader in the conservative movement. i think people get to know that an individual like myself, who's now been a governor, served, has a record, is a person who has the kind of consistency, on conservative principles that distinguishes me from someone like our speaker, speaker
gingrich, who has taken extraordinarily unusual positions with regards to calling the medicare reform plan a right wing social engineering plan, suicide he's called it. this is a person who has a very questionable record when it comes to leading conservative principles. >> romney also opening up a new line of attack when it comes to the personal wealth of newt gingrich, ironically, despite his own vast fortune that's been estimated up to $250 million, romney suggesting gingrich's bank account puts him out of touch with the average american. >> i think speaker gingrich has lived in washington the last 30 years. he went to washington to do good and he stayed to do well. he's a very wealthy man. if you have a half a million dollar purchase from tiffany's you're not a middle-class american. >> continuing his media blitz with "the new york times" interview, mr. romney warned republicans about the consequences of nominating newt
gingrich, saying, quote, zany is not what we need in a president. end quote. for now at least, gingrich not taking the bait. he says he will save the attacks for president obama. >> they should run their campaign the way they want to. i'm going to run my campaign the way i want to. my campaign is going to focus on positive ideas and positive solutions and i'm, frankly, taking the gamble that the american people care about actually solving our country's problems, not just watching politicians beat each other up. >> latest polling out of new hampshire shows romney still leading the republican field 38% support. that's 18 points ahead of gingrich in the state of new hampshire. the former house speaker did move up to second place. jon huntsman has jumped up to 13%. that puts him in third place. ron paul in fourth with 8%. huntsman, thanks to independents, perhaps, who say they are all rallying behind the former utah governor in new hampshire. with less than a month to go before voting begins, 11% of new
hampshire voters say they are still undecided. in fact, more than 50% say they're likely to change their minds before the january 10th primary. 45% say they have already picked their favorite in that new hampshire primary. let's get a check on your weather now from nbc meteorologist bill karins. he's back at 30 rock in new york. bill, good morning. >> good morning to you, willie. quick update for everyone, bring the umbrella in the east. it's still amazingly warm out there. i think only a quarter of the ski resorts in new england are now open and we're almost heading into christmas. you have to feel bad for them and the economic situation up there. temperatures in the 50s with rain moving into most areas. the rain is primarily out there in areas like syracuse, rochester and back through the ohio valley. dry in chicago today, but showers likely in dallas and also san antonio. we're not going to have too many airport delays today. these temperatures are amazing. it's going to be warm today in new york as it will be in some areas like los angeles. white christmas, doesn't look good for hardly anyone out there. >> not yet, anyway.
i'm coming across country and see you back in the studio tomorrow. keep the airports open for me this morning. coming up at the top of the hour on "morning joe," back in new york, more on the ceremonial end of the war in iraq. we'll discuss the legacy of the conflict that lasted nearly nine years and claimed some 4500 american lives. and when we come back here, we'll huddle around the water cooler to watch the most fascinating of all barbara walters fascinating people, mr. herman cain, who explains why he'd still like to be the secretary of defense. a can't-miss clip when "way too early" comes right back. [ male announcer ] cranberry juice? wake up! ♪ that's good morning, veggie style.
that was the scene just moments ago as the colors of the united states military rolled up and cased, prepared to send back to the united states, bringing a ceremonial end to the united states' role in iraq. we told you earlier the united states has put an end today to that war, ending a military action that's lasted nearly a decade, taking the lives of some 4500 americans. if you want to sound smart today, tell your friends 170,000 u.s. troops were in iraq at the height of the war in 2007 when president obama took office two years later in january of 2009, about 150,000 of those troops were there. now, a couple of hundred troops will remain to provide security.
enough of the real news. gather around the water cooler for a brief moment to watch the return of a man we've missed quite a bit over the last couple weeks. mr. herman cain. he made barbara walters list of the year's most fascinating people. check out barbara's reaction when he answers this question. >> what kind of cabinet position might you like if it were possible? >> we are speaking totally, totally, hypothetical, right? >> yeah. >> totally hypothetical. the department of defense. >> what? why the department of defense? >> because if i could influence rebuilding our military the way it should be, that would be a task i would consider undertaking. >> if you were secretary of defense, it would be important to be familiar with the various countries around the world and you have had some difficulty with that, mr. cain. >> yes, but i have been doing my homework ever since that difficulty. >> did you see her face, what? secretary of defense?
we've taken the liberty of putting together a resume tape i think will show off for the department of defense his foreign policy credentials. >> you don't need to know the details of foreign policy in order to be a good commander in chief. do you really believe that? yes. >> i do view china as a potential military threat. they are trying to develop nuclear capability. >> okay. libya. and ask me who's the president of ubeki-stan-stan, i'm going to say i don't know. do you know? >> i have all this stuff twirling around in my head. >> your move, department of defense. he's putting it out there. we'll be right back with "morning joe."
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